Repost from Medium
As businesses realized the importance of using data to make decisions and measuring their success, technology adapted to provide more sophisticated tools. With the tools available, every industry today craves for more information to improve their processes even further and stay competitive.
Healthcare organizations rely heavily on data to track their care quality and patient progress. Meaningful data allows healthcare professionals to make informed decisions on improving clinical efficiency and help them see the bigger picture. These institutions already use their patient portals or mail-based tools to distribute surveys. However, such tools aren’t designed for this purpose and lack various reporting and interactive capabilities. Evaluating effectiveness of a particular drug may prove quite challenging when all you can ask from your users is to rate it on a 10 points-scale. Different applications might require customization of the generic form and healthcare professionals aren’t well known for their coding or data warehousing skills.
A company that produces electronics might want to test a prototype by sending it out to its customers first and gather feedback. These industries rarely use advanced database tools and this task will require a custom form for that product.
There isn’t really a cookie-cutter formula for data acquisition, because every industry needs different types of data in various formats. The data collected is often unique in nature and may require additional work to place into existing database. Clinics might want to survey their patients and show them their progress, whereas a manufacturing company might need to track their orders and client information. Whatever the case may be; businesses need quality data in the desired format and the process doesn’t need to be any more complicated than it already is.
There are many survey and data collection software in the market. But they often fall short in handling complex data collection needs. For example, creating a form with large number of input fields across multiple pages is a fairly challenging task with these products; you have to spoon feed the tool to define everything. Even then, you are stuck with the developer’s taste. Another example is if there are live calculations based on user inputs. Implementing such business logic is also relatively difficult and in many cases, unsupported.
That’s why many companies still find it easier to build their data collection forms in Excel. Using built-in functions, it is possible to create forms with large number of inputs with stylish formatting and a complex business logic. Excel has a very simple interface everyone is familiar with. Utilizing only this skill pool, data collection and presentation can be enhanced by turning them into web applications.
You could always create a UserForm in Excel. However, creating the interface and the connections require macro and VBA knowledge. SpreadsheetWEB removes these barriers with a smooth user interface and acts as a bridge by publishing an Excel document on web in mere minutes. Plus, all process is in a centralized network, where every change in the system is logged.
SpreadsheetWEB also solves another problem with using Excel for data collection. Aggregating data from many files received from end users is always a challenge. One can develop a macro to aggregate data. But lack of validation in the data entry process leads to inconsistencies in received data, hence cause macros to fail. SpreadsheetWEB collects and stores data in a database directly. As soon as a user submits information, it is already stored in the database as a transaction. This eliminates data aggregation issues.
Quality of data is the determining factor for its usefulness. If the values are in apples and oranges, there is a good chance that no software can analyze your results. Excel and other web office tools support data validation. However, copying and pasting data overrides existing rules in Excel and therefore, isn’t always a reliable solution.
Another advantage of database driven approach is collaboration and workflow. It is possible to have multiple people work on the same dataset instead of locking the document for every instance. In complex data collection processes, data often needs to be reviewed and modified by multiple people. This is extremely difficult and prone to errors in traditional Excel based process, because the same Excel file has to be emailed around to get everybody’s input. With SpreadsheetWEB, everyone access the data form from a web interface and each update is saved in the database. There is full audit trail to determine when the data was updated and by whom. This is especially useful when dealing with data subject to internal audits.
Here is a detailed medical history form. This example features more than 120 input fields. Creating this application in a survey tool, for instance, would take a few days, if not weeks.
What if we wanted to remove some redundant lines? On a patient portal, you would have to speak to the developers and have them implement the changes for you. In this application, however, you can simply go to the original document, play around with cells and just upload it again yourself in a few minutes.
The screenshot below shows the web version of this form created with SpreadsheetWEB. This application was created in a few minutes. It preserves the layout and formatting of the Excel sheet and presents it in an elegant web form.
Microsoft Excel already has tons of features geared for creating a user interface or a business logic, and literally everyone is somewhat familiar with the software. SpreadsheetWEB taps into this hidden value and allows businesses to collect data in a collaborative and secure environment. The best part is; you don’t have to worry about different versions of Excel, or whether people have Excel at all. Web applications can be accessed from any device with some kind of web browser and this can hold true for all your processes.